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Should Social Security recipients be means tested before drawing benefits?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/15/2016 Category: Economics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 638 times Debate No: 97024
Debate Rounds (5)
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Means-testing Social Security recipients unfairly deprives them of benefits that they are entitled to under Federal Law. They have paid into the system for decades and are entitled to a return for what has been taken from them. It constitutes a taking under the US Constitution and is illegal.


When social security was created as a way of supporting the elderly the life expectancy was only 61 and that was back in 1935. Now the life expectancy is twenty years higher than that and people are eligible for SS at 65, as a result social security is being payed to people for way longer than the system originally intended it to be. There was also the addition to the law in 1956 when people with disabilities became eligible for SS, and that added another chunk of money being taken out of SS and given to them for the rest of their lives. Currently there is the problem of not having enough money going into the SS system to give to all of the people that qualify for Social Security. If there are people that have enough retirement or savings that they do not need a social security check every month would it really be so bad to change the law to where they don't qualify for social security? The law has been changed to include people, why not change it to exclude people?

Please explain what you mean by a violation of "taking" under the US constitution.
Debate Round No. 1


Please see the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution, see the Takings Clause. This clause requires just compensation in the event that the government takes something from private citizens.

Please define what you mean by "enough retirement or savings." The amount required in NYC to retire is very different from the amount required for rural New Mexico, for example. Also, if someone is single vs. the sole support for a couple would require different amounts. If someone has saved their entire lives for retirement, they have earned the right to draw their benefits. Yet someone else, that perhaps wasn't as frugal would actually receive more benefits. This creates a moral hazard, actually encouraging retirees not to save adequately for retirement.


Under this clause it states that compensation must be given to an individual if private property is taken from them by the government, in this case I am assuming that you consider the money given for SS as the "property". It does not however specify that the compensation must be in the same form as what was taken from them. In this case money was given to the US government as a way to support the elderly with the idea that they will get it back someday, but under this compensation does not necessarily have to be in the form of a monthly check from the Social Security Administration. Elderly people already have many benefits that they are eligible for besides social security, such as medicare and tax breaks. These examples of financial assistance that could be considered a form of compensation for the property, in this case the money, that was taken from them at an earlier age. Social security is only a small portion of all the tax and financial aid that is available to seniors. Even those who would not financially qualify for SS would still qualify for all the other elderly benefits, and these benefits can be view as compensation for the money for SS that they payed to the government earlier in life .

What I mean by "enough retirement or savings" is enough savings to live out your life, obviously the actual money amount would vary and whatever the system for means testing would be would have to take into consideration the area of residence. A SS check of an average of around $1,000 is not enough to live off of in most places, especially if you are retired, so really there is no incentive to not save adequately for retirement.
Debate Round No. 2


I agree that compensation could be in other forms. However, if a recipient gets a reduced benefit than someone else as a result of means-testing, how can that be called compensation in other form? They would have to get something additional to compensate for the reduced benefit, or I contend it is still a taking.

How would you suggest varying the system for means testing to account for cost of living variations?


If the total dollar amount from the other benefits adds up to the amount that they have paid over their life time to social security then compensation can be considered to be paid. For example if the government ends up spending large amounts on healthcare for an elderly individual through medicare, then this dollar amount would go towards compensation to that individual. Also, the money that they will not be paying to the government in taxes would also add up. I will admit that full compensation may not be an option to some of the individuals that would not qualify for SS, but the whole idea of the means-testing is to find people that have enough money that 1000 dollars a month would make no significant difference in their lifestyle.

I am not arguing the inner workings of the means-testing system, only that there should be one.

SS at this point is a limited resource and as of now the younger generation will likely never see the money that they are putting into SS because of the sheer numbers of people that are drawing out SS checks for many more years than the system was built to supply. Another possible solution could be to raise the age at which people become eligible for social security, but whether it is means-testing or raising the age of eligibility, something should be done to limit the number of people on SS if it is going to remain a law within the US.
Debate Round No. 3


Fair point that if the recipient gets back the equivalent of what they paid into the fund then they have been fairly compensated. The issue for the solvency of the fund itself is that there are many taking out of it more than they have paid into it.

Assuming that there is a legal path around reducing benefits, the primary obstacle to implementing the kinds of changes that you're describing are political. Senior citizens, generally speaking, form a powerful and organized voting block with significant influence in Congress through the AARP.

Although you make excellent points, finding the political will to make the required changes will most likely require a fiscal crisis to create the conditions for getting that constituency to accept the need to make a move.


there are many possible solutions to this problem, and there is not going to be one that is perfect that will make everyone happy, but if SS is going to continue on into the future as a sustainable system then, as I stated before, something should be done to limit the number of users.

Thank you for your time.
Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by TheBenC 2 years ago
I hate how Social Security is often pointed to as a problem when America gives Mexico over $400 million a year. The US gives over $43 billion in aid to other countries every year.

It is nearly impossible to Google how much in SS taxes are taken from Americans. I tried for 10 minutes and gave up. SS pays out a $hitload but is offset by taxes. Stop giving away money to other countries and everything is fine, right?
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